Effective Detox Programs for Opioids
Within the United States, opioid addiction is a severe problem. Over the last decades, the number of individuals that suffer from this issue has increased dramatically. Opiates and opioids are distinctly related substances that have been used as painkillers for centuries. In the past, people have become addicted to these substances, prompting the medical establishment to look for alternative methods to treat chronic pain.
Opiate and Opioid Addictions
Opioid and opiate addiction aren’t permanent conditions, however. With the right approach, individuals can overcome their addiction and dependence and recover their lives. The start of opiate and opioid rehab is detoxification. Detox centers provide support for recovering persons who want to break their addiction.
However, detoxification is a process that is best done under medical supervision. Here, we look at how opioid and opiate detox can help people overcome dependence on these substances.
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An Overview of Opiates And Opioids
Opiates have been used in Asia since the sixth or seventh century as a painkiller. Records show that ancient Egyptians and Greeks also knew of the opium plant’s properties. An opiate is any chemical that is extracted or derived from opium. Opiates are termed “natural” since they come directly from the poppy plant. This categorization has made them seem a better alternative as a painkiller to some.
Unfortunately, opiates can be pretty addictive, and taking them consistently over time will lead to dependence on the substance. Opium as a drug fell out of widespread usage around the twentieth century. Opium dens were associated with crime, and as a result, the drug became unpopular with medical practitioners.
Around the same time, chemical experimentation allowedhumanity to develop artificial alternatives to opium. Opioids are synthetic molecules that can be crafted in a lab and mimic the effect of opiates on the brain. When scientists first discovered the substance, they figured they could start to move away from the addiction that opiates would cause to their patients. Sadly, opioids were just as addictive, if not more so.
These synthetic molecules are excellent painkillers, but the additional euphoric effect they create can be addictive for most users. Opioid dependence comes from consuming opioids over a long period. The brain’s chemistry changes until the person can no longer function normally without opioids in their bloodstream. Addiction follows soon after as the person starts making questionable choices to keep up with their habit.
Do I Need Detox For Opioid Dependence
Breaking opioid dependence requires a lot of willpower. Opioid dependence stems from the brain’s need for the substance. This need is based on how the brain’s chemistry has evolved to deal with the presence of opioids. When a person uses an opioid, it slows down how pain is transmitted to the brain and creates a dulling effect. Unfortunately, the most significant side effect is a feeling of euphoria that comes from a massive release of dopamine into the brain.
Dopamine, also known as the “feel-good” chemical, is responsible for giving feelings of euphoria. However, this massive dump of dopamine forces the brain to rewire itself to cope with the increased dopamine concentrations. This rewiring results in a situation where the brain changes physically, creating a permanent dependence on the substance.
Detoxification is the first step in breaking addiction because it allows people to break their tolerance of the substance. It does this by forcing the person to live without the drug to break their dependence over time. Because the brain of an addicted person has rewired itself, going without the drug over an extended period leads to withdrawal symptoms.
Detox is, in essence, a controlled withdrawal that seeks to reduce the intensity of symptoms and help the individual cope with leaving the drug behind. It’s crucial as a part of rehab because it lays the foundation for long-term recovery.
Opiate And Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
As mentioned before, opioid detox is a method of controlled withdrawal. During detox, the recovering individual will not be able to consume the drug over a certain period (usually a week, but this may vary depending on the level of dependency the recovering person displays). Over this time, their body will start displaying withdrawal symptoms of varying intensity.
The number of symptoms and how powerful they depend on several factors, including how long the person has been using the substance and when the last time they had it. Because opiates and opioids share much of the same interaction with the brain, the withdrawal symptoms between both of these substances are remarkably similar. They include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Muscle and Bone Pain
- Racing Heart
- Increased Body Temperatures
- Nausea and Vomiting
Medical Detox for Safe Withdrawal
Medical detox centers like South Shores offers are a way for people who want to break their dependence on a substance to do so in a safe, controlled environment. Many rehab centers have detox areas specifically geared towards helping individuals safely deal with their detox. These facilities typically have doctors and nurses on call. While it’s unlikely that in a controlled environment, something awful happens, these medical practitioners are there as a precaution. Medical detox is the safest route for someone needing to detox from a drug since it offers support in case of an emergency.
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Potential Timeline of Opioid Withdrawal
Days 4 - 6
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)
The detox process can be broken down into two separate phases. The first stage is primarily physical. Many individuals seek a rehab center with medical detox to help them through this period. These symptoms can typically last a week but may extend into two weeks. The initial symptoms that occur are known as acute withdrawal symptoms.
The second phase of detox is post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS. Since the brain is initially wired to deal with the presence of the drug, it needs to change its behavior when the drug is no longer present. PAWS is the result of this rewiring process.
PAWS is an entirely different type of withdrawal to acute symptoms. The symptoms of acute withdrawal are primarily physical, while those of PAWS are primarily psychological in nature. In many cases, PAWS could last for several months, even years.
However, with the right type of therapy, a person can easily overcome the issue of PAWS and live a normal and happy life. Symptoms of PAWS appear sporadically and seemingly without a trigger. Because of this unpredictability, recovering individuals sometimes feel disoriented. Behavioral therapies have shown a lot of promise in helping individuals over their long-term treatment.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a method of helping individuals who want to overcome opioid addiction with medical treatments. After the initial detox, many experts agree that there’s a significant risk of relapse. Stress and other situations might drive a recovering person back into drug use.
Some drugs are used as medication-assisted treatment options to help those acute cases deal with their withdrawal and aid their long-term recovery. Among the most common drugs used for this purpose are:
- Methadone: This is a heavily controlled opioid that affects the same receptors that an addictive substance might. Methadone helps to “take the edge” off cravings. It doesn’t have the same euphoric effect as illicit opioids. South Shores offers a methadone taper if needed, with goal of detox using alternatives to methadone for our clients.
- Buprenorphine: Another drug used to maintain a person’s sobriety post withdrawal. This drug also hits the same receptors that an addictive substance does, allowing the brain some comfort. The euphoric feeling is muted, and the drug has a much lower risk of overdose than other opioids. Sometimes, clinics dispense Buprenorphine alongside Naloxone to help with recovery.
- Naltrexone: This drug blocks opioid receptors in the brain but doesn’t ease withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone is better is used in a broad scope recovery program than as an individual dosage to deal with a particular addiction.
Foundations For Recovery Following Detox
- Inpatient Treatment: Inpatient treatment centers have premises where individuals can stay. Checking into an inpatient treatment center is a big step since it means giving up the outside world for a bit. However, people who are serious about their long-term recovery prefer this option, as it has a higher success rate. Inpatient treatments usually offer therapy from trained counselors. In some cases of multiple mental health conditions, inpatient care can focus on dual diagnosis and the underlying causes of drug use.
- Outpatient Treatment: In an outpatient facility, the patients don’t stay at the facility. Instead, they are expected to meet their counselors for regularly scheduled sessions. An outpatient facility is helpful for some people because it allows them to continue their daily lives while still dealing with their addiction over the long term.
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